Welcome Ravi and Dinesh. It's my pleasure to have you folks. I would like to set some business context before we get into the conversation. It's a staggering statistic that caught my attention. As per a report by Gartner, Blockchain is estimated to create a business value of USD 176 billion by 2025.
More importantly, the initial implementations seem to be reaching a spot of obsolescence and requires a lot of modern-day replacements. Even though Blockchain is in its infancy, Gartner predicts 90 percent of current enterprise Blockchain platform implementations might have to go through transformative upgradations and replacement by 2021. And it's not about the market size. We are living in the age of COVID where pretty much everything is becoming contactless and the ability to stay secure is coming under the center bud of Remote First strategies. As per an IDC research, 40 percent of Tier 1 financial institutions would have Blockchain networks to process the cross-border payments and eventually will bypass Swiss and central banking infrastructure. Imagine this is going to be a transformatively pivotal moment, considering the way cross-border payments will do.
Lastly, as per a report by IDC, 75 percent of regulated companies are expected to adopt Blockchain in support of explainable Artificial Intelligence by 2024. And as a service provider and a technology product Engineering and Digital Next company, nearly 11 billion dollars are to be spent, particularly in the Blockchain services ranging from consulting, implementation and support. This, too, caught my attention.
Having said that, I'm very thrilled to invite two of our best practitioners of Blockchain technology in Innominds. Ravi is our Executive Vice President for Big Data, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Analytics and Data Engineering practice. He also spearheads our endeavors in emerging technologies and he ensures that autonomous AI becomes the reality for the enterprise. He has been driving Blockchain implementations along with Dinesh, who's going to be our other speaker. While Ravi is the constant speaker on our Innocast series, Dinesh comes from our Sales and Solution Engineering team.
He's an Indian School of Business alumni with close to 14 years of experience in diverse technologies in terms of solution proposing, and solution architecting. He has been at the forefront of proposing and implementing some of the complex Blockchain transformation services that we have delivered by virtue of our strategic partnership with some of the Tier 4 consulting companies and also our own clients in terms of solving complex engineering problems, and leveraging distributed ledger technology. Without any further delay, let me welcome Ravi and Dinesh. I emphasize that it's going to be a very, very interesting forty-five minutes for all of us.
Ravi and Dinesh, let’s talk about how is Blockchain coming to the center fold of our Digital Next endeavor.
Let me ask the first question that comes to my mind before we jump into Blockchain. I have been in the technology industry and interacting with practitioners like you. But there is a myth that Blockchain and Bitcoin are the same thing. I know it isn’t. What exactly is the fundamental difference?
And then we walk towards Blockchain as an enterprise technology. Over to you Ravi and Dinesh.
Ravi: I'll answer this and have Dinesh to answer to this question, too. Primarily, Blockchain is a technology and Bitcoin an implementation. Blockchain is the technology that powers Bitcoin, which, in turn, powers many of the cryptocurrencies. But that's not all Blockchain powers. There are other solutions that are not just about cryptocurrency. Blockchain, at its core, is a technology that comprises of three parts. Blockchain is the distributed ledger, a part of multi-party computing, which is done by many parties independently and verified to a consensus mechanism before you commit to a particular transaction that's the distributed ledger.
And the second part is smart contracts. So just as you have the physical contract between parties, those physical contracts between parties have been converted into code and the code is exactly the same between the parties. It cannot be tampered by either parties and therefore they have to trust that the other party is executing the code in exactly the same way as they have done and that replaces the physical contracts, the smart contracts and the third parties. The Cryptography and foundations in Blockchain, as the name suggests, is about chain of blocks.
The Cryptography foundation means that every transaction is linked to other transactions that emanate out of this Blockchain. Once it is clear, we have traceability back to where it all started. And that gives us the ability to make this tamper proof auditable. So, to summarize, Blockchain is a technology and Bitcoin an implementation. However, Blockchain has evolved and grown beyond Bitcoin simply from the point of view the use of Blockchain in enterprises has exceeded money value wise that up to the Bitcoin. And from an infrastructure point of view, it has exceeded in the enterprise context as compared to Bitcoin.
Sai: That's brilliant. In fact, I have been practicing a lot of technology for business value proposition. This has been an eye opener for me. And you've covered a complex maze of things. The thing that caught my attention is that it's very secure and has wider implications. The second question which I had, which was partly covered, essentially, is that how does Blockchain, as a technology, works when you say distributed ledger? And what are the major benefits of using Blockchain as a technology?
So, let's move on to that gear. Probably, one of you can explain, and then we will see how enterprises are getting benefits from it.
Ravi: The benefits of Blockchain is that today we invest in a lot of processes of systems and intermediaries in almost every process that we have. So, if you take the classic supply chain example where you have the supplier and the consumer and let's say it is a cross-border transaction. In the banking world, you must be aware of the terms called the bills of lading and the bills of exchange. And then there are guarantees for either party. The banks on either party open letters of credit for either parties and then the transaction happens because the supplier cannot trust the consumer.
The consumer will play his part in terms of the contractual obligations and vice-versa. And this leads to a lot of complex processes that leads to a lot of intermediaries. This leads to a lot of additional steps in the process than people dealing with other people directly. So this is what Blockchain will eliminate and you can have a system wherein two parties can trust not in each other but in a code, in a system, in an infrastructure that neither party can unilaterally change.
It means that the transactions that are now going to be direct will have fewer steps and intermediaries who were earning fees by just being across trusted party for both sides. The aspect of Blockchain is about transparency in what is happening and in the cryptographic auditability that nothing can be tampered, and everything can be audited right to the starting block of the Blockchain. This means that you have a whole lot of transparency in business processes that you cannot keep. This technology saves a lot of costs and additional steps for business processes.
Sai: That was so informative and quite deep in terms of how you put it together. But let's understand from an industry standpoint. I understand you've been working with large enterprises and ISV’s. What sort of enterprises do you think can actually get benefit from Blockchain and more so which industries could impact the most? I'm coming from use cases and how do we go through operational efficiency, improving transparency and ensuring security from an enterprise angle? So, take us through that journey before we start about specific use cases.
Dinesh: So, as Ravi mentioned, at the heart of it while Blockchain facilitates, is in the transactions that have a lot of intermediaries going across it. Instead of putting the feet across intermediaries, the transacting entities put their faith in a platform, in a code, where unilaterally none of these entities can go ahead and make modifications to the code. Across enterprises and industries there are parties that require intermediaries, third-party assistance, authenticating, authorizing or even standing by the transactions.
This is where the technology can be enforced, and the cost of the transactions can be minimized by replacing these intermediaries with the platform. Across industries such as financial services, which Ravi already outlined, are at the forefront of this evolution of the Blockchain technology. This phenomenon is followed by the government and the public services sector, which is better that a lot of multiple entities participating coming into a transaction, which requires data sharing between them in a trusted manner.
Other than the above, there is the supply chain ecosystem wherein there are multiple parties, which are coming together and transacting onto the same information. So, there are industries like healthcare and a few others. But at the core of it, wherever there are multiple entities that are coming and doing the transaction on the same information, assurance is required on the resiliency of this transaction. This is where Blockchain can serve its need.
Sai: That's perfect. So, as I get it, when you are in a business need of an assurance of resilience and completeness of a transaction in its entirety, security is not compromised. And that's where Blockchain plays a significant role. That's a defining moment, particularly for financial services.
I believe Blockchain is a game changer for BFSI because it is a sector where paramount importance is attached to data security, the value of data and more importantly, the transactions that get exchanged. Are those models facing serious challenges? Ravi and Dinesh, what's your perspective on it?
Ravi: Financial services have seen two major disruptions. One is digital where it's no longer about the brand, or the physical aspect of a bank or a branch and everything digital. The other major disruption is called disintermediation.
Banks have made money by being an intermediary between a lender and their borrower, between a paying party and the party that is receiving the payment, etc. So, the digital transformation of the banking means that you no longer have a constraint of the physical branch and any party can provide these intermediation services and not just a bank. We have seen in many countries how the payments have been completely upstaged by new entrants and have gone past the incumbents.
For example, if you look at cross-border transactions, Ripple is one of the leading platforms in the Blockchain as it has built a billion-dollar repentances as market by itself. And this has been done in less than about time compared to decades of existence of other evidence meets, etc.
So, the digital transformation of the bank, coupled with the opportunity, means that new entrants can be a disintermediation. It has given rise to the fact that with Blockchain technology, there is a greater potential for this to be happening. Presently, the banks have been laying a catch-up game. If I may say, in terms of being alert to this and ensuring that they ride on the Blockchain technology, whether it is payments, mortgages, KYC or AML, etc., there have been new entrants, small banks, digital banks, bond and digital banks, which have used Blockchain to jumpstart and get a platform that can be entirely digital through it than the bigger bank.
Sai: In the COVID situation, how do you think Blockchain technology can make supply chain resilient? Isn't it the fact that COVID has created a compelling case for wider integration of Blockchain, particularly with global supply chain getting adversely affected due to the lack of transparency and interoperability in the network? Do you think Blockchain can play a role?
Ravi: Yes, Blockchain can play a role in COVID from two points of view. The transparency in the supply chain and the ability to provide real time information in terms of what's happening on the supply chain is called digital supply chain.
Ravi: Ability to not just monitor the supply chain, but also to be dynamic in terms of what you are doing with respect to supply chain outcome is important. And if you have a problem with those shipments, you want to take a real time decision in terms of what needs to be done and then do right things like rerouting or dynamic routing or some other aggregation, etc. So, these are all the use cases with respect to the Blockchain that we see and can disrupt the supply chain.
Another aspect of the supply chain that Blockchain enables is the aspect of aggregation. The supply chain has driven a lot of value and efficiency through aggregation. You must have heard of the third-party logistics, the fourth party logistics, which is aggregating over the three. So, the Blockchain form the poor information backbone for giving real-time information about the large complex, global supply chains that will help the aggregators take the right decisions and the right positions in terms of where and how to do the aggregation and the disaggregation.
So from that point of view, I saw one of the analysts quoting that more than 90 percent of international supply chain, overseas supply chain, whether it is by the sea or by the air or even by land, are likely to be monitored and managed by some Blockchain technology or the other.
Sai: Absolutely. I think anything that comes to monitoring is getting more and more attention.
Well, before we jump into the second part of the dialogue where we talk about some practical use cases of what Innominds has done, I’ve a question on that deeper technical note. What is it about the microchain that you are talking? The other day, you and I walked while we were in the office one and half months ago and we were talking about microchains and also microservices architecture. Does it have any parlance when it comes to Blockchain implementation? And overall, how can the architectural view be created to bring a transformative change in the enterprise? Is there a view that you guys can answer?
Ravi: I will answer the question on microchains and let Dinesh answer the microservices part. So, one of the myths of Blockchain needs to be busted. It has been said that Blockchains provides value only for few large consortiums that involve banks, brokerages and payment entities.
And, this has been one of the hurdles that the Blockchain technology had to face in order to get wider adoption. So, this myth is propagated. This is precisely the reason why a lot of banks say that unless they get a large consortium, they won't bid. We wanted to bust the myth and what we have seen is that it doesn't require very large concessions to get the benefit.
We have implemented Blockchain in scenarios involving just one vendor and customer who are supplier/vendor where there is a large amount of information gap between the vendor and the supplier. Whether supplying, invoicing and payments processors a part of account payables or it is about global deliveries, global invoices and taxation aspects and things like that.
We believe that a vendor and the customer are good enough to start a microchain between the two parties and can try to bridge that information. It can be said that the two can lead to a lot of efficiency in the process of all the on the supply chain, as well as, the accounting and the payment aspect.
This is the concept of a microchain. It can even be just to chain, where you can bridge the information deficit between the parties. Hence, I’ll ask Dinesh to answer the question on microservices.
Dinesh: From a microservices perspective, Blockchain has the inherent concept of decentralized application, which is where the entities are hosting the Internet applications stack in its own ecosystem. This is where the application can sit on the microservices architecture. But the underlying ledger, which is going and connecting with the other entities to share and collaborate on the information, is where the information comes more as the part of the hybrid architecture.
It's not a pure play microservices architecture. It is a combination of microservices as well as the shared information that goes across these services. Think of the ecosystem wherein an IoT device would want to go ahead and establish communication with the Blockchain. All of these IoT devices will have the services embedded in them, which is whenever an invocation happens to these services. Then, at runtime, they'll go ahead and focus on the cloud and push the data on to Blockchain
But at the backend, the Blockchain is there and running. It is sharing information continuously.
Sai: I get that. Let's get to some of the real time practical use cases.
I know that Innominds has been doing substantial work in terms of the emerging technology focusing on Blockchain. Why don't one of you run me through a bit of the Blockchain work that we have done, sort of different type of Blockchain services and technologies in terms of the Hyperledger implementations and gradients. And then we can jump in those specific use cases that you guys have created on Blockchain. This way, the listeners would also be able to reflect upon the practical benefits that we have delivered for large enterprise customers.
Dinesh: At Innominds, over the past three years, we have worked on more than 20+ customer driven use cases on Blockchain, which spans across multiple technologies such as Ethereum, Quorum, Corda and more recently, Hyperledger Fabric, has been the platform of choice for many enterprises.
And along with it, we also have exposure towards working on the Blockchain platforms, SAP Blockchain and Oracle Blockchain. And most of the implementations that we have done is in the space of private and permission Blockchains. We had one or two glaring instances on public Blockchains.
Since we work mostly with enterprises, and ISVs our work is more relevant to the private Blockchains. From the industry's perspective that we have served, we have built use cases across all financial services, public sectors, healthcare, supply chain and logistics and re-deals and financial transactions. An inspiring fact about the work we do at Innominds is that more than one third of the solutions that we have developed are actually running in production, which is where over the past one year we have been maintaining those solutions. So, that is where our complete experience in the lifecycle of Blockchain comes from. Right from concept validation to the consumption and from maintaining and enhancing it comes through our experience.
Sai: I see. Okay, that is very interesting. And Ravi, do you want to add on to that?
Ravi: In addition to just solving a given industry customer problem, we believe once again, the hurdles to the Blockchain has been essentially about setting up the infrastructure and smart contracts. I have mentioned about a critical part of the Blockchain technology with it being on the public cloud or on the on premises, seamlessly.
We realized that a lot of our customers have a kind of learning curve to get over the Blockchain and then do the implementation. With that in mind we have a great start on the package, which we call Blockchain as a Service, where with very simple and intuitive commands and through a DUI or otherwise, you can actually set up a multi-party compute environment.
You can provision infrastructure, onboard entities, and govern their respective nodes as part of this multi-party computing. And then we have a template for smart contracts that people can actually take. And we have the DAPS, the decentralized application templates where you can power all of these into the web or mobile device for people to be able to see as well as create these transactions on the Blockchain.
So, the Blockchain as a Service that we have developed acts like a great package and allows you to get a jump start in terms of the Blockchain implementations. And it allows you to test the benefits of Blockchain through POCs very quickly. It allows you to scale up and convert them to enterprise ready implementations in a matter of few months.
Sai: Awesome, just to sort of intervene there. Also, very glad to reiterate the fact that Blockchain Magnet magazine featured Innominds amongst the 15th Blockchain-as-a-Service offering companies. I believe that's a reflection of what you just spoke about. So, my congratulations to all of you.
From what I have noted in the various discussions that we had and correct me if I'm wrong, some of the use cases and MVP we developed have facilitated remittances and chargebacks between subsidiary entities. That's a use case, proxy voting, even to simplify the voting process for corporate entities, isn't it? So, are there any learnings that you want to share?
Ravi: Yes. The proxy voting is a great example of how the microchains work. One of our customers deal work to first determine who the eligible proxy's on voters are. Take for example Microsoft.
So, they determine who are the eligible shareholders and can participate in the work on the voting site. Later, they issue a statement for which you need to get the vote sign and you basically go and seek the votes. The good thing about the microchain is that you need not conceptualize this solution as something that replaces all existing proxy voting to the Blockchain technology.
Sai: So far, it has been a very insightful conversation that talks about the technical and one source of Blockchain, enterprise use cases and also some of the specific work that Innominds has been doing. What are the current challenges that you would see as a practitioner in terms of both implementing and evangelizing Blockchain? And what could be those immediate solutions to overcome those practical challenges? Anyone of you can answer this.
Ravi: Nobody has had a kind of a doubt on the technology of Blockchain in terms of why it is that, how it basically helps, aspects of privacy, establishing systems of trust and things like that. But for all I think, the challenge has been in terms of what exactly are going to be my business benefits in order to move my current systems, which are on a different technology to Blockchain.
There have been lot of questions around and we've been exchanging information through Enterprise Data Integrations. What does Blockchains do differently when compared to EDI? There have been challenges. And to solve them, Innominds has come up with a framework to establish as to, when there's a good time to do Blockchain and we have covered some parts of it.
If you have a cross-border, for example, you need a system of trust between these entities. Those were good times to do a solution on Blockchain. We have a complete framework for doing this and not just us. I think almost all the leading implementation parties Blockchain have developed such robust frameworks to articulate its business value to go through a structured process where you will see whether a particular business scenario or a use case has value to be obtained by implementing a blockchain solution or not.
This is one of the challenges. The second challenge is the mysterious nature of Blockchain. How does it work? It's not easy. Let's say databases have work in the past. I can authorize a transaction in a database. I can instantly see that this transaction has been affected.
Blockchain is not exactly like that. So the learning curve is still why enterprises think to reorient skill sets towards working on the Blockchain. And this is where the abstractions that we have built, the accelerator packs and the starter packs that we built becomes significant and is able to reduce barrier and ensure that the adoption of Blockchain happens quicker and in an easier way.
At the end of the day, Blockchain is still the technology that stores data and processes it. However, the higher-level application aspects are not touched by Blockchain. It only works at the system of the pool. So, this is also one of the reasons why it minimizes the cost of implementing a Blockchain solution.
Sai: Let's get to the last part of the discussion. What is the future of Blockchain and where are we headed?
Ravi: Yes, the blocking has seen its hype cycle. Like every technology, it was at its peak few years back and now it is on the recovery path wherein you are getting tangible benefits out of Blockchain solution. We have created a lot of value in digital supply chains in networks and communications between networks, in healthcare and in the financial services using Blockchain.
From a future technology point of view and growth perspective, the analysts’ recommendations indicate that we are going to see a CAGR of about 40 to 50 percent on the enterprise adoption of blocking technology and the technology itself has evolved. It is no longer about one Blockchain. It is about chain of chains and interoperability between them.
Right. It means that this is no longer a monopoly of one party like Ethereum and a Hyperledger, and an Ethereum and an IoT Blockchain can coexist with, say, an enterprise Blockchain. The technology is evolving very fast and pivoting itself to serve enterprise’s needs and not just the consumer or the public services that the government needs. The technologies are fascinating and emerging. From perspective of cost of computing and the scalability, there is a significant improvement in terms of the number of blocks you can commit per second.
These are turning out to be great as they to do not just low value but high velocity transactions as well. Hence, we are excited that from value, technology and barriers to adoption point of view, there is a significant growth and we see a future where Blockchain is a system of trust across complex global processes and supply chains.
Sai: Awesome. Ravi and Dinesh, as of now, we’ve discussed about a dive down into use cases you might want to bring in. I understand Innominds have done some significant work in terms of facilitating transfer pricing remittances and also doing a proxy voting for voting process of corporate entities using Blockchain. Probably, these are also a minimum viable product to test in the market. Ravi, do you want to throw some insights into this a little bit more?
Ravi: Certainly the proxy voting use case is a great example that I argued earlier. One of our customers is a large player in the proxy voting space. Basically, they provide the services of registering the proxies with string statements and then doing the voting process and determining the vote. Our customer has been a very early adopter of Blockchain. So, this is an improvement.
And what they have done is that instead of trying for a very large consortium of all the proxy voting stakeholders, it quickly piloted a proxy voting solution with their large bank, which is an investor right into many companies and many stocks, etc. They steered that particular registration off the proxy vote through proxy voting solution. Later, they saw that this was eliminating a lot of intermediaries and also reducing the time it takes to issue a statement and record to vote.
As you know, we are going through a unique situation due to COVID-19. And it demands an agile enterprise that can take decisions quickly.
The current existing process of proxy voting with its timelines can be significantly reduced through a digital proxy voting that is enabled through Blockchain. This is a benefit that our customers get in addition to cutting down on the costs of the intermediaries and the fees and the charges that they would pay.
Sai: Understood. Dinesh, I think you have driven some complex use cases yourself, ranging from renewable energy certificates, trading to management of smart cities, or invoice and payment reconciliation in the shipping domain. Cyber resiliency for financial services and network security for threat management, you could pick up anything that is close to your heart and then probably share some insights on how one has been implemented using Blockchain for any of those cases.
Dinesh: Sure, so we a broad-based framework that can be extrapolated to any of the asset tracking capabilities. The underlying fact is how you can do physical assests and convert them into digitally, equivalent asset to consult with the Blockchain. For the individuals who are going to transact on these asset tokens, there is a concept of network tokens, which is essentially a missioning capability and trade on that asset. So, if a particular person has enough network tokens with him and he is the owner of the asset tokens, it allows him the permission to go ahead and transact.
That is where the capability of the Blockchain comes into building the auditable treat aspect, which is through the combination of network tokens. That's where any of the asset framework can be extrapolated, which was primarily in the content of network security. So, using Blockchain as a technology could happen on the network and then try to discover patterns and anomalous behavior in them.
And on these two, an unintended behavior gets out and is captured into a separate transaction. So this way, network can be formed resiliently, and can be secured over the network in an encrypted manner whenever the transactions happen. Normally, the person who's using his own secure keys, can go ahead and decrypt the information.
Sai: Awesome. But I think this has been one of those deeper journeys into a very complex technology landscape of Blockchain that I would ever participate. It must be a very strong revolution in set of takeaways for the listeners. Just to summarize, demystified Blockchain is much larger than what bitcoins are. And Bitcoin is just an implementation. While the distributed ledger technology has wider positive implications in terms of enterprise use cases ranging from the BFSI to cryptocurrency and payments and telecom, specific deep dwells into transfer pricing, sort of use cases and proxy voting.
Whenever there is scope for smart contracts and resilient transactions with security, I'm understanding that Blockchain has greater role to play. It has an enormous potential to look from AI/ML to fraud and then also cross-border payments and ensure cyber resiliency for financial services when companies are struggling to be compliant, particularly in the remote first situation. So, thank you very much. I kind of also take away the fact that Innominds itself has done more than 20 client driven use cases of Blockchain for various levels of complexity, and it's one of the 15 Blockchain-as-a-Service offering companies and the competencies range from Ethereum, Quorum, Corda, Hyperledger, Ripple, Cryptoeconomics and Smart Contracts. So, I am very excited to be hosting this show.
Needless to say, we will welcome you back for further journeys into deeper technologies that will unfold for our listeners. Stay safe everyone. It's been quite a challenging time that humanity is navigating, that we at Innominds, have been resilient in helping our customers navigate this journey. Our quest to share thought leadership perspectives never ends. Innocast aims to fulfill meaningful podcast from a practitioner standpoint. Thank you for being with us. And we continue to come back on much deeper and interesting topics.
Thank you very much.